Nick El Hajj Associated Press
Dubai, United Arab Emirates — First up was a banana, random berry, and wheatgrass smoothie. Then cold brews, triple shots, milk lattes, German craft beers, and small batch barrel-aged Prohibition cocktails.
A new bar in Dubai, the cutting-edge hub of every Middle East, is serving ‘gourmet water’.
Luquel’s Aqua Water Bar collects water the old-fashioned way: from the tap. Many Dubai residents prefer bottled water, but the government says tap water is safe to drink and meets international standards.
Minerals are then injected using a microdosing system designed by German water filtration company Luqel. They offer mineralization rivals of premium water brands, catering to fans of all types of water, including alpine and arctic.
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“Our water sommeliers have designed our drinks to suit your needs and mood,” said Managing Director Roia Jabari. We bring you a perfectly mineralized recipe.
Rich in sodium and potassium, Runner’s Heaven is designed for joggers recovering from the scorching desert heat. “Vegan’s Choice” provides minerals that a strictly vegetarian diet may lack.
Customers can also fill bottles with one of the mineral blends for approximately 50 cents per 16 fluid ounces, or pay an additional fee for mocktails.
It’s not a completely new concept.
Bottlers have long sold water extracted from natural springs and remote mountains. Coke and Pepsi joined the effort several years ago, adding sweeteners and soda to compete with Evian and Perrier, blurring the line between water and soda.
Consumer acceptance of healthier lifestyles and distrust of tap water has increased the popularity of such products.
Bottled water is the most widely consumed beverage in the United States, with the average American drinking 46.5 gallons a year compared to 36 gallons of soft drinks, according to consulting group Beverage Marketing Corporation. It’s rare to find a bar that specializes in water instead of offering it to patrons for free.
In 2012, a water bar serving highly filtered New York City tap water opened in New York City’s East Village, sparking a storm of criticism. Another restaurant briefly opened in Washington, D.C. in 2019, but was not well received. Neither seem to have been open for very long.
But Dubai, an ultra-modern metropolis built on desert sands, could be fertile ground for this trend.
Alcohol is available in bars and clubs in the United Arab Emirates, a United Arab Emirates of seven emirates, including Dubai, but the Muslim country has a large abstaining population. As a center of international commerce, it draws fitness-conscious affluents to support the wellness industry.
Jabari says the water bar is frequented by suit-wearing businessmen working in the surrounding Dubai Media City, but insists the water is not too expensive and is not only used by wealthy patrons.
In a tribute to sustainability, customers can fill their bottles or purchase reusable bottles starting at around $2.50. “One of the things that is like scraping a blackboard for me is seeing people walking around with plastic bottles,” Jabari said.
Early reaction seems to be positive, with the bar boasting a 4.6 star rating on Google based on around 12 reviews.
“(The water) was really different,” said Bilal Rizvi, who recently stopped by to try it. “Very good. Turmeric water was great.”
Jabari says her favorite drink, the Virgin Mojito Mocktail, is also very popular. “It has a twist of cucumber and lime with a touch of sweetness from agave and honey.”
The interior designer, who was born in San Diego, California and has lived in the United Arab Emirates for 24 years, designed the bar with a water theme. Bubble-shaped lights illuminate the decor in blue and white tones. In honor of her tradition, she also serves Persian cuisine in her bar.
She sees room for growth in Dubai’s parched neighbors and wants to expand her business.
“Saudi Arabia is a huge market for us,” she said. “We believe Abu Dhabi will be our next step.”
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